Children's Review: Mine!

There's a reason "mine" is usually among a toddler's first words: it's short, it's easy to pronounce, its meaning is a cinch to grasp, and saying it feels so good. In agreement would be the characters of Mine!, another winning picture book from Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann (Giant Squid; Honeybee). At the story's heart is a disagreement over what's "mine." Put another way: Whose "Mine!" wins? By pulling back the curtain on unblinkered acquisitiveness, Mine! reveals the humorous side of the proprietary headbutting familiar to toddlers (and others).

The story begins peacefully enough: "In a tall, tall tree,/ at the tip-tippy top,/ hung a single red apple,/ just about to drop." Along comes Mouse, who has designs on the picturesque fruit: "'An apple,' squeaked she./ 'Mmm-mmm, how divine./ When it tumbles to the ground,/ it'll all be mine!'" Mouse waits it out under a fallen leaf, where she envisions holding the prize in her loving arms. The image appears in a thought balloon featuring an exclamation-pointed "MINE!"

It turns out Mouse isn't the only one who covets that apple. Each of four fellow critters--Hare, Fox, Deer, and Bear--fantasizes about getting hold of the juicy fruit. Bear's words could be anyone's: " 'Nummy nums,' growled he./ 'See that hanging there?/ My snack, my bite, my morsel./ No way I'm gonna share.' " Finally, while the animals are independently hiding, each harboring his or her own "MINE!" fantasy, the wind sends the apple to the ground. The five rivals race toward their conquest, converging in a cartoonish melee from which the apple manages to escape. On it rolls, ultimately ending up at the feet of an opossum who, upon inspecting the apple, introduces a different punctuation mark to the book's refrain: "MINE?" Once face-to-face with the apple's resident worm, the animal lands on a much more appetizing word: "OURS!"

Fleming's rhymes are bouncy and flouncy throughout, and capture the mouthwatering anticipation known to anyone who has ever been in a state of deferred gratification. Using a relief printmaking technique and employing a reined-in outdoorsy palette on stained paper, Rohmann creates roomy, clean-lined compositions; this works wonders to keep the feverish trials of each character distinct. A standout illustration is a split-screen image of Mouse, Hare, Fox, Deer, and Bear watching the apple falling in what looks like slow motion from the sky, literal manna from heaven. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: This picture book centered on five animals competing for the same juicy apple takes the sting out of the proprietary headbutting familiar to toddlers (and others).

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